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Archbishop of Miami offers housing to exiled Nicaraguan priests


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Daniel Esparza - published on 02/21/23

Other bishops elsewhere in the US, who need Spanish-speaking priests, also offered help.

The Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, spoke last week to the Florida Catholic regarding the expected arrival in Miami of some of the political prisoners that the Nicaraguan government released and exiled to the U.S. Most of these former political prisoners were either politicians or candidates running for public office, whom Ortega locked up before the elections. Among them, the archbishop explained, were “four or five Nicaraguan priests, a couple of seminarians, a deacon, and an organist.”

Whereas the Nicaraguan exiles were supposed to be housed at first by Nicaraguan families already residing in the U.S., Archbishop Wenski said he was able to offer the priests and seminarians longer term housing at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.“I’m offering them the hospitality of the seminary as well as the opportunity to get acclimated, acculturated and see what the next steps would be after that,” he said in declarations carried by the website of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Although the expectation is that many of the priests and seminarians would stay in Miami, “I’ve already heard from a few bishops [elsewhere in the US] who need Spanish-speaking priests who would be happy to help them out,” Archbishop Wenski said.

The seminary would provide these Nicaraguan priests with “intensive English classes” while their immigration paperwork gets sorted out.

Bishop Álvarez chose to stay behind

After refusing to leave with the rest of the 222 political prisoners flown to the U.S. on Thursday, Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Nicaragua. According to media reports quoted by NPR, “Álvarez stopped at the stairs leading to the airplane and said, ‘Let the others be free. I will endure their punishment.’”

In a speech confirming the release-exile of the 222 political prisoners, Ortega himself said that the Nicaraguan bishop had been taken to Cárcel La Modelo, a prison where most political prisoners opposing Ortega’s regime are held. 

According to local Nicaraguan reports, he is kept in isolation in cell Number 300, also known as the “infiernillo” (Spanish for “tiny hell”), a maximum-security cell.

Sources affiliated with the Church told Despacho 505, a Nicaraguan independent news service, that “people from the prison center have said that he was taken there, but that he is confined in cell number 300, completely isolated.”

The source also stated that he is kept in isolation to prevent him from having contact with any other political prisoner.

No nuncio

Ortega has already removed the Pope’s representative in his country. In November 2021, Ortega stripped Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag of his role as dean of the diplomatic corps in the country, and in March 2022 he was expelled (along with Mother Teresa’s nuns).

Ordained a priest in 1993, Archbishop Sommertag was appointed to the nunciature of Managua on Feb. 15, 2018, and received episcopal ordination from Pope Francis on March 19 of the same year.

According to the World Fact Book, Nicaragua is 50% Catholic. It has nine dioceses, two of which were administered by Bishop Álvarez.

NicaraguaPersecution of Christians
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